Regional Heat Flow Map and the Continental Thermal Isostasy Understanding of México

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Orlando Miguel Espinoza-Ojeda and Robert N Harris, Oregon State University, Collage of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Corvallis, OR, United States
The first heat flow values made in Mexico were reported by Von Herzen [Science, 1963] for the marine environment and Smith [EPSL, 1974] for the continent. Since that time the number of measurements has increased greatly but are mostly from oil and gas exploration and in and around geothermal areas. We have compiled published values of conductive heat flow for Mexico and the Gulf of California to generate a new regional heat flow map consisting of 261 values. In addition to those original values, published heat flow sources include, Lee and Henyey [JGR, 1975], Lawver and Williams [JGR, 1979] Smith et al. [JGR, 1979], Lachenbruch et al. [JGR, 1985], and Ziagos et al. [JGR, 1985]. Although the geographic distribution is uneven, heat flow data are present in each of the eight main tectonic provinces.

Our new compilation indicates relatively high regional heat flow averages in the Gulf Extensional Province (n=114, 92±22 mW/m2) and Mexican Basin and Range (n=21, 82±20 mW/m2) and are consistent with geologic estimates of extension. Lower regional averages are found in the Baja California Microplate (n=91, 75±19 mW/m2), the Sierra Madre Occidental (n=9, 75±12 mW/m2), the Sierra Madre Oriental (n=4, 68±15 mW/m2) and Mesa Central (n=X 77±23 mW/m2). In contrast low and variable heat flow value characterize the forearc region of the Middle America Trench (n=6, 35±16 mW/m2). A higher mean heat flow is associated with the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (n=6, 78±26 mW/m2).

Continental elevation results from a combination of buoyancy (i.e. compositional and thermal) and geodynamic forces. We combine these regional heat flow values with estimates of crustal thickness and density for each tectonic province and compute the thermal and compositional buoyancy following the approach of Hasterok and Chapman [JGR, 2007a,b]. We find that within uncertainties most provinces lie near the theoretical isostatic relationship with the exception of the Mesa Central and Sierra Madre del Sur that are anomalously below and above the theoretical relationship, respectively.